The Detroit Tigers selected Dylan Smith, a right-handed pitcher from Alabama, with their third-round pick Monday in the 2021 MLB draft.
Smith, 6 feet 2 and 180 pounds, was chosen No. 74 overall. The 21-year-old is the fourth player drafted by the Tigers, following high school pitcher Jackson Jobe (No. 3 overall), Texas right-handed pitcher Ty Madden (No. 32 overall) and high school infielder Izaac Pacheco (No. 39 overall).
“Dylan Smith is a good athlete,” Tigers amateur scouting director Scott Pleis said Monday. “A lot of room to fill with his body. Delivery and arm works great for a starter. Good breaking ball, spins it well. I think there’s some big upside there. We were lucky to get him there.”
Rounds 2-10 are Monday afternoon; Rounds 11-20 are Tuesday afternoon.
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Smith, a junior, went 2-8 with a 3.84 ERA, 20 walks and 113 strikeouts over 98⅓ innings across 16 starts last season for the Crimson Tide. He was 30th nationally in strikeouts, and boasted 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings against an impressive 1.8 walks per nine innings. The Stafford, Texas, native pitched in the Perfect Game Collegiate League in 2019, posting a 2.37 ERA, five walks and 28 strikeouts over 19 innings in 12 games (one start). He is the first Alabama player the Tigers have selected since taking right-hander Spencer Turnbull in the second round of the 2014 draft. Smith was drafted out of high school in the 18th round by the San Diego Padres in 2018.
Why it makes sense
Here’s what the Tigers are thinking: More pitching equals less problems. General manager Al Avila — along with manager AJ Hinch and pitching coach Chris Fetter — continues to preach the importance of solidifying the starting rotation for years to come, and Smith could help them accomplish this. His fastball sits around 92 mph but can reach 96 mph and is accompanied by his slider, curveball and changeup. While his slider is his second-best pitch, his curveball and changeup aren’t far behind. He doesn’t use his changeup as much as the other three pitches, but the Tigers have a lot to work with because of Smith’s upside and four-pitch arsenal.
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Why it’s a risk
For the first two years at Alabama, Smith spent most of his time pitching out of the bullpen. He had a 6.48 ERA in 13 relief appearances as a freshman, followed by a 5.68 ERA in four games (one start) as a sophomore in the shortened season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Smith experienced a breakthrough in 2021, his success a product of throwing more strikes. He isn’t an overpowering pitcher, but he learned a boost in strike throwing goes a long way, which the Tigers hope he brings to his professional career. But the next level will test him and force him to pitch aggressively, like how the big leagues challenged 2018 No. 1 overall pick Casey Mize before he got comfortable in his second MLB season. Whether Smith meets expectations or not depends on his willingness to pound the strike zone against even the toughest opponents.
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.